How to write up your case study

You’ve finished the project and you’ve interviewed the client about his experience. Now you need to write up the case study in a way that demonstrates how your company helped the client and how it can help your reader in the future. But what’s the best way to do that?

With a story, of course.

Everyone likes a story; they are the most effective way to influence or persuade people. So give your case study write-up a few of the elements of a classic fairy tale and you’re likely to hook more readers.

The power of storytelling

Narratives that cause us to pay attention and involve us emotionally, move us to action. We respond to and are persuaded by stories, which is why the most successful products, businesses and brands have a powerful story behind them. If you weave a compelling narrative within the quotes of an interview, you’ll have a case study that packs more punch.

In every fairy tale there are three elements – the first is the main character. For our purposes, let’s choose Cinderella. The second element is the main character’s pain point; she wants to go to the ball but has no beautiful gown or carriage. The third element shows how the pain point is overcome; in the fairy story Cinderella’s pain point is overcome by the help of the fairy godmother who waves her wand and creates a carriage and horses fashioned from a pumpkin and some mice.

So, in writing up your case study;

  • you need to introduce your interviewee/client (Cinderella)
  • you need to highlight the challenge (zilch beautiful gown)
  • you need to show how your business (the fairy godmother) helped the client and how you can also overcome these challenges for the reader.

Introduce the main character

Like any good fairy tale, the first task is to explain what is going on. Who is the client and what is their business?  Explain the context and give the reader reasons to care. Can the reader relate to the client in a meaningful way to feel what he feels and understand the everyday pressures he faces?

For this reason, it is important that you know who your readers are. The readers need to be able to see themselves, like looking in a mirror (wait – wrong fairy tale), in the words you write. Describe the needs, challenges and responsibilities of the client interviewee in enough detail that the reader can relate to, and later on visualise, you solving their problem too.

What’s the pain point?

What challenges did the client have to deal with? Let your client describe these challenges in their own words. Give the reader enough information to be able to empathise with the client and understand the challenge he faced before he had your product or service to save him. Really make the most of these pain points as your readers are probably struggling with the same problems. Every quote you include in the write up should aim to offer comfort to your reader/potential client.

Although you are writing about the client you interviewed, his challenge and his experience with your business, the write-up is mostly about how your company helped the client and how it can help your reader in the future if they put their trust in you. You are using the social proof of another business, that’s saying how great you are – to give your readers a reason to trust you.

Move the story forward

To hook the readers in at the outset it’s a good idea to explain, in the headline, how you helped your client overcome their challenge. So, Fairy Godmother’s headline might read, ‘Cinderella sparkles at the ball’. The reader will then want to read the full case study to find out how you achieved such a result. But don’t give them too much detail too soon. Like a good fairy story, you need to keep their interest enough to spur them to read to the end where all is revealed.

Use the narrative arc to hook your readers; always keep the ‘plot’ moving forward and offer morsels of information through the client’s quotes, as the story progresses.

Remember that you’re not writing to tell potential clients how good you are, you’re writing to let your existing client do the telling, so let them speak – interrupting only to move the story forward.

A project is not over once your invoice has been paid. Case studies are a great way of squeezing every last ounce of marketing juice from a project and they add tremendous weight to your marketing efforts. But for added heft, write up your case study so that you can show potential new clients how you can ease their troubles and be their fairy godmother too.